The term 'Asian' is used for cats of Burmese shape and coat texture, but with non-Burmese coat colour, pattern or length. The Asian Group of cats originated in Britain from the 1980s onwards, although they are known as 'Malayans' in some other countries, and includes Asian Selfs ('self' being a term used to describe a cat having the same colour all over, right down to the roots), Asian Smokes, and Asian Tabbies. It also embraces the closely linked Tiffanies (longhaired Asian cats), Bombays (black Asian Selfs) and Burmillas (Asian Shaded). The Asian Group of cats are derived from the Burmilla, which was originally the result of an unplanned mating between a Burmese and a longhaired Chinchilla cat, and subsequently, other Asian breeds derive from results of matings between Burmese with other breeds. Interestingly, they were the first group of pedigree cats breeds in Britain to include a good temperament as part of the Standard of Points, which also states categorically that they must not resemble a British Shorthair, a Persian or a Siamese in shape.
The Asian breeding programme originated with the Burmilla, bred 'accidentally' by Baroness Miranda von Kirchberg in Britain in 1981, and, having seen the pretty kittens that resulted from this mating, she decided to develop the breed further with other coat colours and patterns derived from the Burmese. Throughout the breeding programme, these lovely cats they have been bred back to the pure Burmese (often alternate generations in the early days) to maintain the wonderful Burmese shape, coat texture and temperament, and nowadays there are a good number of breeders promoting the Asian. .
The Asian falls into three distinct breeds regarding coat pattern and colour, and in the UK, all three are given different breed numbers. Each colour is known as either 'Full Expression' or 'Burmese Colour Restriction' which means that the cat is either a Burmese colour or the unmodified Full Expression colour, which is much darker, with, for example, the Burmese brown becoming black. But all three varieties known specifically as Asian are elegant, medium-sized, muscular cats, similar to the Burmese, with the same smooth and glossy coat. The head forms a short balanced wedge, tapering to a blunt muzzle with the top of the head well rounded with medium to large ears set quite wide apart. Kittens are often born with ears that look far too big for their bodies, but they mostly grow into them. The coat texture is short and fine, lying close to the body, with a medium to long tail reaching the shoulder if brought round gently along the side of the body. Eye colour varies from yellow through to green, depending on variety and coat colour, and blue, orange or copper is definitely frowned upon.
Asian Self: Apart from the Bombay (a black Asian breed in its own right) there is a wide range of recognised colours available - brown, blue, chocolate, lilac, red, cream, tortie, caramel, apricot, cinnamon, fawn, all, apart from the last four, also being found in the Burmese. As with many other breeds, the reds, creams and apricots sometimes have faint tabby markings as well as 'freckles' on the nose, lips and rims round the eyes.
Asian Smoke: On first sight, the Asian Smokes (once known as Burmoires) can sometimes be mistaken for an Asian Self, and they come in all the 'Self' colours, but they have an attractive undercoat of silver-white or near-white, forming up to half of the hair length in adult cats, and which is described by some breeders as looking like a watermark. The coat length is fractionally longer than in the Burmese and the Asian Self.
Asian Tabby: The tabby pattern can be Spotted, Classic, Mackerel or Ticked, and is formed by markings of the solid pattern colour (which can be any of the recognised colours, including silver), with a dramatic M marking on the forehead. There are not Tabby Burmese, and the Tabby is likely to remain restricted to the Asian, as Burmese breeders are not interested in developing this pattern.
This breed is known for its superb temperament. It has a very extrovert, inquisitive nature and together with a high intelligence, this makes the Asian an ideal family pet. However, the Asian also has a very gentle side to its nature, which may appeal to more elderly people who are looking for a loyal companion. Although this is a very affectionate breed, the Asian loves showing off, especially when there are visitors to impress and charm! Like the Burmese, it is a very vocal breed, with a loud voice when it wants to get its point across clearly, and it also likes being picked up and cuddled. Because it is such a sociable cat, the Asian relates to well to human company and will adapt well to indoor living, not feeling the need to go out. However, it will need company, and will not appreciate being left alone for hours at a time - another feline companion, especially a cat with a similar extrovert personality, will be much appreciated.
The Asian appears to be a long-lived variety, with no health problems specific to the breed. In common with other cats, they need annual vaccination boosters against the common feline ailments of flu and enteritis, as well as against Feline Leukaemia if they go outdoors.
The Asian will eat most good quality proprietary brands of cat food, but will also enjoy treats of cooked chicken, ham and grated cheese, preferably shared with its humans if care is not taken! However, cows' milk will probably give them a stomach upset, and a bowl of water should always be available. It has a short plush coat, which will not need much grooming, and stroking (particularly with slightly damp hands) will normally remove any dead hairs. A dry chamois leather will bring up a wonderful sheen on the cat's coat. If the Asian is to be a pet, and not used for breeding, it should be neutered at around 6 months of age as it is a breed that matures sexually at a young age.